Blog | October 5, 2020

Highlights from our 2020 Global OOH Insights Panel

In September, our OOH From Home webinar series brought together a group of experts for our first ever Global OOH Insights panel.

Moderated by Adrian Cotterill of DailyDOOH, the panel included Fiona Fitzgibbon (Founder, Diversiffi), Tim Harvey (Founder, Knitting Media), and Adam Green (SVP and GM of Programmatic Platforms here at Broadsign).

It was a great, lively discussion covering a variety of topics of concern to just about anybody working in the OOH space. To help make the content a little more accessible, we’ve clipped highlights of the conversation and added them here in this post. Check them out!

Transcribed questions and answers from these highlights are also available at the bottom of this post.

Tim Harvey discusses developing programmatic DOOH standards

At the beginning of the webinar, Tim gave a presentation on the ongoing development of a few different standards in programmatic DOOH. With these standards, OOH publishers and buyers will have many opportunities to transact and deliver campaigns programmatically. It was a super informative presentation that covers a lot of important ground.

Take a look at Tim’s presentation here (11.5 minutes):

Discussing industry standards & standards pushed by private enterprise

As interest in and access to programmatic DOOH continues to grow, standardizing the terminology and technologies employed in the pDOOH space will become vital to success. But who should come up with the standards, and how should they be managed?

We see this as a critical conversation in programmatic DOOH today, and enjoyed hearing Adam and Tim discuss the matter in the webinar.

Do media owners need to integrate with all the pDOOH platforms out there?

Following right on the heels of the previous question was an important matter that must be on the minds of many DOOH publishers out there. Right now, there are several platforms out there offering different opportunities in programmatic DOOH – do publishers need to integrate with all of them?

It’s a good question. If a business is getting in on programmatic, it’s probably because they’re excited to realize its benefits for their business. They don’t want to miss out on potential opportunities.

If you’re in this boat right now, Fiona and Adam have some great advice: Don’t worry about integrating with everything. Find what will work for your business’ needs and build from there.

How do we bring buyers back during/after COVID?

This has obviously been a difficult year for many in the out-of-home industry, and full recovery (and eventual growth) is likely to take a while. Finding ways to appeal to buyers, drawing them back in to buying DOOH, programmatically or otherwise, is a top priority for many businesses. It’s a tricky thing to do, of course, but the panel had some good suggestions to offer to make it happen.

Will COVID lead to faster adoption of real-time data?

Real-time data are the lifeblood of programmatic transactions. While more and more businesses have invested in powering their networks with this information, adoption wasn’t quite as fast or as widespread as would be ideal for fuelling a huge global programmatic expansion.

And then COVID hit, and DOOH businesses around the world started looking for new opportunities to improve and grow. It begs the question: might COVID be the thing that pushes a bunch of OOH businesses to invest in real-time data?

What does programmatic mean for sales teams?

How will programmatic trading affect direct sales teams in OOH businesses? It’s a question that worries a fair few in the OOH industry, as it has for a long time. But the worry may be misplaced. Well-informed sales professionals are integral to the success of a programmatic sales model, and Fiona laid out a few good reasons why this is the case.

The fiction of programmatic being an instant payday

When we talk about the promise of programmatic, it’s often with a great deal of excitement at being able to open up DOOH inventory to buyers from all over the world. But as Tim reminded us in this clip, it’s important to remember that just enabling programmatic access isn’t enough. Media owners need to make sure their connected inventory is actually desirable to buyers.

Should we go chasing waterfalls?

For those media owners who do have great inventory and are ready to expose it to the greatest possible demand, the question does arise: Why not multiple exchanges? And how can they ensure that the best possible buyer, across all exchanges, wins any given bid?

“Waterfalling,” or automating the bidding of campaigns across multiple exchanges simultaneously, is the answer – in theory. But it’s well worth watching this clip to see Adam explain why it may not be necessary right now, and discussing with Tim some of the challenges currently present in waterfalling for programmatic DOOH.

Where will we see future innovation?

Something short and sweet to end us off here – what comes next? We’re in the midst of some great advances in the programmatic DOOH space, and with that will come a variety of exciting projects and businesses that redefine the potential of our medium.

The panelists were asked for their take on what kinds of innovation to look out for, and they had some great answers to share.

Want more insights from leaders in the OOH space?

Check out the rest of our OOH From Home webinar series!

Video transcripts

More of a reader than a watcher? Here are the full transcripts of each video listed above.

Discussing industry standards & standards pushed by private enterprise

Question

In the absence of industry standards, surely private enterprises will jump in and take their place. What are the panelists’ thoughts on things like Dax, Place Exchange, VIOOH, and Broadsign Reach? Surely private enterprises will push their own standards.

Answer

Adam Green: It’s not atypical that you see private companies getting out ahead of the standards and innovating. That’s their role – clients are pushing them and they’re pushing their clients, and I don’t think that’s a problem. When we talk about the absence of an industry standard within the programmatic world, where the standard is OpenRTB… it’s widely adopted, but it’s often looser than people imagine. It’s like the pirate code – the standards are more like guidelines. So you do see innovation and adoption of only parts of the standard and not other parts. 

I think where it becomes important is where those standards govern interoperability of systems, and that’s where you do need standardization. It’s okay to go and innovate on something that is unique to your system. But as soon as it involves your system talking to someone else’s system, you do need standardization. The standards bodies need a really strong process to identify those places of interoperability to see where innovation has potentially led to something better, codify it and then maintain it. If they don’t do that, in the absence of a standards body successfully doing that, private enterprises actually can do it themselves. 

We’re actually seeing that right now in our space; a collaboration between ourselves, Place Exchange, Trade Desk Vistar and Verizon on venue naming taxonomy. So this speaks to the deficiency that Tim noted in his slides with OpenRTB and discoverability. Everybody was using a different standard to name things. So if we have one standard venue naming taxonomy, it’s much easier for a buyer to find what they’re looking for. Ultimately we plan to hand that off to an open source project managed by an industry body and there’s lots more work like that coming down the pike.

Do media owners need to integrate with all the pDOOH platforms out there?

Question

I’m a small media owner. Do I have to integrate with all of these (DAX, Place Exchange, Broadsign Reach, and VIOOH)?

Answer

Fiona Fitzgibbon: I can jump in on that one. To be honest, I think from a media owner’s perspective, they really need to find the one that suits their customers, their inventory, their market and their business model, and appraise accordingly. All of them have a slightly different focus and ingredients, and so my advice would be to explore your options. Talk to similar operators as yourself—similar networks and similar audiences—to understand the resources required to administer multiple platforms because you’ve got to take that into account. Get expert but neutral advice. Have a look at them and work out what’s good for you and your network and your estate.

Adrian Cotterill: Surely, Adam, you want everybody to integrate with Broadsign Reach?

Adam Green: Yeah, I mean, I would love to say ‘No just integrate with ours,’ but I don’t think that’s realistic. I think everything Fiona said was absolutely right. Take soft drinks for example: you have multiple different kinds, from Dr. Pepper to CPlus to Coca Cola, and even within cola you have Coke and Pepsi. There are different platforms that all offer something different in the market.

I think if you’re going to go down this route, Fiona’s advice is great and you should take it and the first step is to really understand what it is that you want to get out of this process. Why are you going programmatic, what are you really looking for? So that then you can evaluate all of the platforms critically and see whether they’re going to meet your needs, instead of just being wowed by a feature that maybe actually ultimately isn’t all that important to you.

How do we bring buyers back during/after COVID?

Question

For media owners with place-based DOOH networks affected by COVID, is there any advice on offering or restoring confidence to buyers that these venues are still viable, even though some may have lower traffic numbers?

Answer

Adam Green: Be honest about your traffic numbers. We know that people aren’t going to go away. We know that these venues aren’t necessarily going to go away. If they are, then guess what: that screen is going to disappear. Be honest about your traffic numbers. Push your measurement body to get updated numbers to you and then share those numbers. The biggest thing that is going to destroy people’s confidence is when they look at it and say, ‘Okay, back in December, you had whatever 1,000 impressions/hour and in May, at the height of COVID, you also had 1,000 impressions/hour.’ I don’t think that’s credible and then they’re going to walk away and they’re just not going to trust you. This is an issue of trust.

Fiona Fitzgibbon: If I can add just one thing there is, I totally agree,  I think it’s about building trust, being honest with where we are. Slightly sideways, one little tip I would give, certainly if it is office-based, or whatever network it may be that has suffered more than others. One of the things I would always say from a media owner perspective is, if you’re releasing figures—and this is a bit cheeky here—but if you’re releasing figures of your audiences X, Y, Z, don’t then post on Twitter you sitting on your own in your office. There’s been quite a lot of that. As an industry we want to work together, we need to collaborate, we need to represent and reflect honest audience numbers, our revenue models will have to adapt accordingly. And there are very different ways you can do that, whether it’s deferred or whatever it may be. But yes, it’s about being transparent with your audience.

Tim Harvey: So in terms of COVID, the impact on the industry has been massive. Some people have called it OOH-mageddon. But again, one of the interesting things is in the UK… I’ve come across a media owner, a tier-two media owner,  their sales are up year on year by 17% through COVID. This is a media owner that’s always struggled to attract the big national campaigns, and it’s a media owner that’s specialized in lots of localized regional inventory, and their bread and butter has always come from direct sales, direct to the brands, and that model has proved to be incredibly resilient.

Will COVID lead to faster adoption of real-time data?

Question

Do you think that COVID is accelerating the adoption of more real-time measurement technologies?

Answer

Adam Green: I don’t know, honestly, I think that we have not seen a change in the rate of people adopting real-time measurement. People were already adopting it, and, you know, It’s hard to move your whole measurement system. I can’t say that I have seen a massive change in that.

Adrian Cotterill: Okay, good. Tim, sorry, one for you or Fiona becaus it’s a UK-based question. Programmatic buys in the UK tend to be bought by Route scores. I think that’s possibly true, you’ll correct me if I’m wrong. Do you think we need more real-time data, such as mobile, overlaid on programmatic buys? Again, this is also considering the COVID audiences.

Tim Harvey: It’s a good point, because Route’s data comes out every quarter and by no means of the imagination can you call that real time. Then, if you’re using a real-time trading platform, it’s always been a hard sell to sell on non-real-time data. You know, the bidding platform were all built and driven by real-time data. So it’s always been a really hard sell to then say ‘Well actually we’re selling on data doesn’t change for three months of the year.’ We’ve seen some people adapt the Route figures using real-life mobile data. So you can use Route as a basis and then use mobile for indication on the volumes that are actually out there, and dial the Route data up and down accordingly. So yeah, it should be in the mix. But, the person who asked the question is quite right, it’s a bit weird using a real-time trading system with a non-real-time audience.

Adam Green: I have a slightly different opinion which is that if you have inventory where you know, or have a resonable estimation, that the traffic isn’t that different day to day, it’s probably not the worst thing to use data that’s only updated on some kind of batch cadence like weekly, monthly or quarterly. It’s obviously not as good as having live data, but the truth is all media metrics are lies. Even the online impression that we were talking about. Tim mentioned that all of online was built with this idea of a live, real-time impression, but half of them are ad fraud. Half of them are botnets and click farms. And so a buyer is already taking whatever that metric is and skewing it in some way or another to account for the inaccuracies, the inherent lies within it.

It’s not a problem that none of them are the absolute truth. What matters is that you have some rough estimation as to how much of a lie it is and that you can account for it on the buy side.It will be great if we could all go to the same version of truth that’s measured live, but that may not be realistic, at least not in the near term.

Tim Harvey: I agree. Because just on that point, I would absolutely use Route to buy my out-of-home campaigns, but using Route, I wouldn’t be using a real time bidding process.

Fiona Fitzgibbon: You’d use a blend. You would use one over the other and you would layer according to whatever your objectives were.

What does programmatic mean for sales teams?

Question

I’ve spoken to many media owners who feel that programmatic takes away sales jobs from their seasoned sales professionals…

Answer

Fiona Fitzgibbon: Oh, I can leap into that one. So, I think you can’t forget, programmatic is a trading platform. Sales teams are very much needed and knowledge of out-of-home is very much needed. But as we’ve transferred into more platforms, in actual fact it’s created new roles. So we do have all the new platforms now, we have roles within all those, they have their own sales teams, chief executive and tech executives… I think there’s an expansion in that area, but we still need the real core understanding of out-of-home, and where I think it would be dangerous is if we lose the out-of-home knowledge and the understanding of the dynamics of the channel, the multidimension that we’ve talked about before, if we lose that just because it’s tech or think we need that combination. But I think roles will adapt, the industry is developing, it’s really exciting, something we should embrace, but I think new roles are actually being developed.

Adrian Cotterill: Can I ask Adam and Tim to nod if they agree with Fiona’s opinion?

Tim Harvey: Yeah, I mean, I’m fascinated, seeing that everyone in that real-time bidding chain from the SSP the exchanges the DSP, they’ve all got chief revenue officers. So, I mean, how many people are chasing these brands now to try and put some money through the sausage machine.

The fiction of programmatic being an instant payday

Question

Have media owners been sold a story that if they put their inventory into these platforms, advertisers will magically appear?

Answer

Tim Harvey: I’d like to think not, but you know, at the end of the day, if you’re running a network that hasn’t got a particularly unique audience, you haven’t got particularly great screens, and you haven’t got particularly great metrics in proving who’s there and why, no amount of programmatic will bring you more money.

It’d be like the four of us creating an Abba tribute album. If we sell it on Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple, we probably won’t get any extra sales. If you’re a media owner with a unique audience, with a unique reach, you’ve got some great metrics to prove who they are, where they are, and you’ve got some great screens to reach them with, then of course you know programmatic has a chance of amplifying your success.

Should we go chasing waterfalls?

Question

What about programmatic DOOH waterfalling to enable the most revenue for the media owner? Is this the future? Is it being developed?

Answer

Adam Green: This is a really hot topic actually within the space right now. Ultimately, I have no reason to think that we won’t follow in the steps of our online brethren and see the importance of a solid waterfall to bid different channels against each other. To do that, we saw in the online world, you need a pretty consolidated tech stack and some dedicated technology to make it happen. Right now, candidly, I think it’s still… I don’t want to say a fiction, but let’s say irrelevant.

When that becomes important, is when your fill rate hits 100% and you have to worry about managing your yield because you only have a limited number of impressions to sell. Most media owners that we deal withhave fill rates kissing 100% or at a 100% at certain times of the year, but not others. So, by and large, this is not, I’d say, a massive practical concern for most media owners on an average day of the year. But it is certainly an issue that’s real and is going to get more and more important over time.

Tim Harvey: Could it end up with a scenario where if you’re a small media owner, you think “right I’m going to put my inventory online with a selection of SSPs, play the field, and would there be a scenario where from the buy side, you’d end up bidding against yourself just for that same placement with the media owner?

Adam Green: Yeah, that’s a really good point and that’s a possibility. There’s two dangers there. One is that you bid against yourself in two different SSPs for the exact same ad play and you end up bidding the price up thinking that there’s lots of other people in the auction and it’s actually just you. The other risk is that when you’re planning out a campaign, your pacing algorithms at a DSP think that there’s tons of inventory because they see, “I’ve got, like, 600 ad plays in this region, but it’s actually only 300 multiplied by two, or 200 multiplied by three because the media owner’s on multiple SSPs.

There will be ways to address that. You can see it in the digital world, they have ways to dedupe via the unique user identifier, so that the UID or Ad-ID of the mobile phone, or historically, using the cookie list you can see, ‘Okay, this actually is the same user twice.’ It’s a little harder in out-of-home. We’ll have to look at what standards we can bring to bear to make sure that this ad play is known—that it’s one ad play, not three different ad plays—and that sort of goes back to the whole beginning of our conversation around cooperation between parties and standards, and it’s not something where we can just borrow the standard from online because we don’t have Ad-IDs, we don’t have cookie lists. And so we’ll have to figure out what that’s going to look like.

Where will we see future innovation?

Question

With disruption in mind, are there any opportunities for innovation through the programmatic channel due to the current situation?

Answer

Tim Harvey: Yeah, I’d say the innovation for me is things like OpenDirect. It’s making programmatic better, faster, cleaner, more direct, with less mouths to feed in the middle.

Adrian Cotterill: Okay, Adam?

Adam Green: I think we’re going to see the most innovation come in use cases. We got a lot of tools out there to trade. Now we’re going to see who can play the best song on these instruments.

Adrian Cotterill: Oh, I like that analogy. You’re good at analogies, Adam. Fiona?

Fiona Fitzgibbon: Not dissimilar really, I think there are more capabilities that will come through that will accelerate and amplify, but at the same token, I still want to see the driving force behind sales teams and estates, and inventory, and development there as well.

Want more insights from leaders in the OOH space?

Check out the rest of our OOH From Home webinar series!